It’s already been a wet and wild winter here in the Pacific Northwest with some significant wind events and yes, even a tornado doing significant damage in Port Orchard!
After the latest windstorm we were able to help many of our clients, advising what their policy will or will not cover, filing claims, and helping find contractors to fix the damage.
So, I thought it might be helpful to others to share with you some of the common scenarios that happen during our winter weather and how they are covered on a typical home insurance policy. Keep in mind that a Tornado is considered to be a windstorm so the answers below apply to Tornado damage as well.
Windstorm blew shingles off my roof-
Is it covered? Yes but with some limitations- a typical Homeowners Insurance policy will pay for repairs to your roof, assuming the repair costs more than your deductible. But what if the roof is beyond repair and needs to be replaced? In many cases, the insurance company will pay out a depreciated amount to help replace the roof. This means that the older your roof is and the poorer the condition prior to the storm, the smaller the amount that the insurance company will pay. Insurance companies do this to protect themselves from paying out to replace people’s roofs that already need to be replaced due to wear and tear.
Our recommendation- The first thing to do in this scenario is the call 2-3 roofing companies to come out and assess the damage. If it is under or around your deductible, then it makes sense to take care of the damage yourself and not file a claim. If the damage is more severe or the roof needs to be replaced, give us a call to discuss further as it may be worth filing a claim at that point.
Windstorm blows a tree onto your house-
Is it covered? Yes. If a tree falls and hits your home or attached deck and causes damage, your policy will normally cover the repair of the damage and the cost to remove the tree. The one exception to this rule that I’ve seen is if a tree is old and decaying and simply falls without any significant wind. In this case the insurance company could deny coverage on the grounds that you failed to maintain the trees on your property.
Our Recommendation- Call us so we can help you get a contractor or roofer out as soon as possible to assess the situation and prevent further damage. Then once we know if the damage exceeds your deductible, we can help you determine whether to file the claim or not. Additionally, watch for hazardous trees on your property year round and have them removed and/or properly maintained.
But what if my neighbors tree falls and hits my house?- This happens all the time and is a source of consternation for many people. In most cases, even if the tree was on your neighbor’s property, your home insurance, not theirs, would actually be the one to pay out the claim. The reasoning here is that we cannot control the wind, therefore we can’t asses fault to another party if a tree falls due to a windstorm.
Windstorm blows down your fence-
Is it covered? Yes, however, insurance companies generally only pay for fence repair on a depreciated value basis. This means that the older the fence is, the less they will pay you for the repairs.
Our Recommendation- Get an estimate or two on the cost to repair and if it will exceed your deductible considerably it may be worth filing a claim to at least find out how much the insurance company will pay out for the repair. If you can fix it yourself, better to save the insurance for a larger claim down the road.
Windstorm causes a power outage-
Having recently spent nearly 3 days without power, this one is near and dear to my heart. Here’s the thing though, aside from food spoilage due to lack of refrigeration, there isn’t a whole lot to claim unless the power outage somehow causes damage to your home. We do get a few calls about food spoilage but generally the loss is far less than your deductible so it rarely would make sense to file a claim.
Water Damage due to pipe Freeze and thaw-
Is it covered? In most cases yes, the damage caused by a pipe freezing and then bursting after if thaws is covered. Note that the policy does not pay to replace the pipe itself. The exception to this rule is if your home is vacant or otherwise empty for an extended period of time and the proper precautions have not been taken to prevent the freezing of pipes.
Our recommendation- If water is actively spraying out of the pipe, turn of the water at the main shut of valve. (Fun Fact: We have free water shut off tags for you to attach to a water main for ease of finding the shutoff when it is urgently needed.) Then call a plumber and a water mitigation company right away to get out to assess the damage. If the damage and dry out costs will significantly exceed your deductible, then call us and we can help you file the claim.
These are but a few potential claim scenarios that you may run into this winter but they are certainly the most common. If you remember only two things from this article, let them be these-
Every claim is unique
Call us– We are here to help